After nearly 10 years of development, the long-awaited PlayStation 4 exclusive “The Last Guardian” is finally out.
You can go to a store today, right now, and buy it. Or download it digitally if you’d prefer. You could do both if you’re feeling wild!
I’ve been playing it for the past week, and can confirm the game is a true delight. It’s thoughtful and unique, like nothing I’ve played before.
As it turns out, that’s both a gift and curse.
“The Last Guardian” starts with a mysterious scene. You — the young boy above, as the player — wake up. You’re in a cave structure of some type, and the beast above (named “Trico”) is injured and chained up nearby.
The game hints at your goal — to free Trico from his chains — but doesn’t spell out how you do it.
Going anywhere near Trico results in him thrashing in defence (he doesn’t know you and he’s injured!). This is the first sign that “The Last Guardian” isn’t your normal game. It will throw a few hints your way from the narrator, and even put up a few button prompts on the screen to explain what the gamepad does, but it’s largely up to you.
And that can be tremendously off-putting, even for seasoned video game players.
My colleague Dave Smith, for instance, tried playing the game with his partner over the weekend. “We couldn’t get past those stupid barrels, and we got frustrated and quit,” he told me on Monday morning, in reference to a trio of food barrels you’re supposed to feed Trico in the first area, after freeing him from his chains.
That sounds about right, unfortunately. My worry is that players will lose patience with “The Last Guardian” early on. But you shouldn’t give up!
Yes: The controls are wonky, and don’t feel direct; the camera is slow-moving (you can make it faster in the options menu, and should); it’s often unclear what you’re supposed to do next, or where you’re supposed to go.
In most games, those are problems. In “The Last Guardian,” they’re intentional. This is a game about discovery, persistence, and nuance. The reward is in experimentation, in figuring out how to build a bond with the massive, mysterious creature in front of you.
As the game goes on, the bond grows stronger. And as the bond grows stronger, your actions become more direct. Moreover, as you play the game, you’ll more readily see the path ahead.
All of which is to say: You must persist.
The controls will never feel perfect, but that’s because you’re controlling a squirrely adolescent. We’re used to game characters being pixel-perfect superheroes. In “The Last Guardian,” the protagonist is a lost little boy. No wonder he’s having a hard time balancing on a thin beam thousands of feet in the air!
If you’re feeling frustrated early on in “The Last Guardian,” keep trying. You’ll get better at controlling the main character (and, eventually, at corralling Trico), and the flow of the game will become apparent. In general, as you play “The Last Guardian,” when you encounter a seemingly inscrutable situation, keep trying. It’s intentional. It might not feel intentional, but it is.
And your reward is waiting just ahead.